Opinion

NELSON: Canadians remember war, don't celebrate it

FACE TO FACE: Should Port Moody rename Hope Street as Veterans Way?

Port Moody council is pondering a suggestion to rename a portion of Hope Street Veteran’s Way in honour of the city’s veterans. Although it seems like a harmless, respectful thing to do, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea.

First, Hope is not only an apt description of what veterans would want their legacy to be but, also, likely a proper name with historical significance. More important, abandoning it for Veteran’s Way is not a good idea because Canadians have traditionally balanced our appreciation for military contribution with a strong abhorrence of war.

This street renaming suggestion is a small part of a bigger trend that threatens to change our recognition of military contribution from Canadian-style solemnity to American-style celebration.

Coquitlam and other cities have already renamed streets Veteran’s Way.

In Langley, Highway 1 was dubbed the “The Highway of Heroes” in memory of Canadian war heroes. We have licence plates for vets and more and more of us put yellow ribbons on our bumpers, as if this were a controversial concept requiring constant evangelism.

Suddenly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians are prefacing every speech with a shout out to the troops. For several years now, Grey Cup games require pre-game and halftime march-ins and fly-overs.

In the U.S., glorification of military service has made conscription unnecessary. When the Americans were fighting one war (in Vietnam), they needed a military draft. Now, they’re fighting two wars and they don’t need a draft. Why?

The American’s systematic worship of troops — “fallen heroes” and “warriors” — has helped the U.S. to recruit an unlimited supply of 18-year-old volunteers, mostly poor, all scrabbling for an opportunity to die for their country.

Admittedly, Port Moody’s renaming Hope Street as Veterans Way probably wouldn’t launch us into American-style military jingoism but we shouldn’t go any further down this road. Celebration and pomp won’t enhance respect for our veterans but it will risk romanticizing military service and inspiring more Canadian kids to become our “fallen heroes.”

Port Moody and Canadians should resist the tantalizing temptation to embrace U.S.-style military cheerleading. Canadians do it right, with personal solemnity and a steadfast anti-war attitude.

So although I deeply respect the contributions of our veterans, Port Moody council should leave us Hope.

Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.

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